When retail listings began to emerge for the UK release of Puyo Puyo Tetris, it was hard to imagine a situation where the PlayStation 4 version wasn't going to be the preferred platform for fans of Tetriminos or Puyos.
This was mostly down to a couple of reasons which seemed to offset the game's natural fit for the Switch's hybrid local multiplayer party trick: Pricing, and release timing. The European publisher for the game, Deep Silver, appears to have set wholesale pricing for the Switch version at nearly twice that of the PS4 release, as the PS4 version could be had for £20 from most major retailers, with the Switch version going for £35.
To make matters worse, Nintendo decided to release Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the same day. It seemed like there would be only one game Switch owners would be interested in that weekend.
Instead, quite the unexpected happened: the Nintendo Switch version sold the lion's share of boxed copies over the game's launch weekend, outselling the PlayStation 4 version by 3:1. According to GfK Chart-Track, Switch sales accounted for 74% of all copies sold over that period.
What is even more intriguing is the sales split doesn't stop there: due to strange Tetris licensing rules, a digital version of Puyo Puyo Tetris can only be released on the Switch as the PS4's PlayStation Store already plays host to Ubisoft's Tetris Ultimate, resulting in an even wider sales split by way of the digital release on the Switch's eShop. That version currently sits at third place on the eShop's sales ranking, which counts software sales over the last two weeks.
If any game has benefitted from the famed 'launch effect', then, it's this one. I've been finding it to be a top-notch puzzle game, one which not only blends Tetris and Puyo Puyo together rather thoughtfully, but is a great fit for the Switch's portability. The ability to invite anyone to a local multiplayer session with ease is a boon here.
While the PlayStation 4 release is a bargain, it's absolutely worth the asking price on Switch, which begs the question: Given the wide sales split between both platforms, you could argue that it was going for too little on PS4...
I've been playing PuyoPuyo Tetris on the 3DS, and the amount of work that has gone into this version of the game is impressive. But it's also made me realise that the days where developers would create an entirely bespoke version of a game are also numbered.
It's easy to have doubts over why a 3DS port of a game that's on five other platforms (PS3, Wii U, Vita, PS4, Xbox One) could stand out. PuyoPuyo Tetris almost feels at home on the big screen: Its playing fields are spacious, its menus are large and roomy, its crisp 2D art sings.
3DS, on the other hand, has two small, low resolution displays, one capable of displaying 3D, one capable of touch. Not the easiest transition, then, but Sonic Team have redesigned the game's interface from the ground up in a way that's actually an improvement, and have incorporated a 3D effect which provides true depth in a game made from what otherwise looks like 2D assets.
The game's manga-panel menus are now displayed across the two screens, with a new iconographic style employed for buttons used to access each game mode. The in-game interface has been repositioned to make the best use of the 3DS's 5:3 aspect ratio display.
PuyoPuyo Tetris' 3D effect has to be seen to believed. Despite being a game made from entirely 2D assets, everything can move about freely in 3D space, resulting in scenes that come to life with tangible depth.
Squished Puyo blocks fall out of the playing field, text hovers above its shadows, the vortexes behind your playing field in Big Bang mode extend into the distance...if anything makes up for the 3DS's relatively low res displays, it's great use of 3D space.
The result is a good reminder that some ports can feel truly special when made to fit their host format.
But it's also a good reminder that these sorts of ports, made for bespoke platforms with a number of unavoidable idiosyncrasies, are a dying breed. Videogames and the platforms they exist on are slowly becoming commoditised, each one adhering to set standards.
While some have diverged, like the Vita and its rear touchpad, or Wii U and its jack-of-all-trades GamePad controller, those platforms cover enough of these standards such that developers and publishers can safely ignore them.
Indeed, Vita version of PuyoPuyo Tetris, while excellent, doesn't feel special. It's just the console version of the game, made for large TV screens -- shrunken down to the handheld's 5.5" display, which results in some awkwardly placed and sized interface elements, but nothing close to ruinous.
This could never be the case with 3DS, a specialised piece of hardware that is appreciably (and sometimes, stubbornly) different enough to demand special attention from developers.
Of course, while PuyoPuyo Tetris on 3DS feels like a labour of love, 3DS is also in a unique market position in its home region (as the "mainstream" platform) to the extent that some publishers may well have had no choice but to embrace the format's differences. Any resources spent making a bespoke version of a game end up being justified when its target format is the market leader.
Nowadays, with the proliferation of standardised hardware and input methods, and a variety of video game platforms to support, it generally pays off to target a lowest common denominator and expand to other platforms afterward.
For example, Nintendo's next platform, code named NX, is likely to feature a flat software development environment across hardware with a shared architecture. While a theoretical NX handheld and console may have their differences, both pieces of hardware will undoubtedly adhere to core set standards that developers are used to targeting.
This is all great news for developers and for standardising what to expect from ports, of course, but I feel something will be lost as a result.